As part of a new project for 2013 I’m calling 52SOUNDS, each week I’ll pick an album to explore in depth in a series of posts here. I’m looking to get even closer to the music I love, discover great albums that have passed me by, and to find out why some albums have become such defining cultural moments.
And because I believe music is an inherently social experience, I’ll be reaching out to my friends to have them nominate albums they love, so that I can explore those in conversation with them, tapping into their passion for their favourite records.
Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles (1967)
Rolling Stone called 1967’s Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band “the most important rock & roll album ever made” so it seems like the perfect place to kick off 52SOUNDS.
It’s an album I remember listening to 20 years ago on vinyl in my older brother’s bedroom, fascinated at how the opening title track segued seamlessly into With a Little Help from my Friends, and wondering who this enigmatic singer Billy Shears was.
If I was confused, then I wasn’t the only one. Sgt Pepper’s was the sound of the Beatles consciously trying to escape what they had become. Camouflaged behind the garish garb of the Lonely Hearts Club Band and joined by a collage cast of their creative peers, they had license to play the kind of free-wheeling concert they had hinted at on 1966’s Revolver.
No more soft music
The band were exhausted from relentless touring and were finding it increasingly difficult to arrange their ever-more expansive musical leanings into stadium-sized romps for frothing, Beatlemaniac teens.
Where John’s assessment at the time was characteristically blunt - “We’re fed up with making soft music for soft people, and we’re fed up with playing for them too” – Paul’s later reflection took on a more lyrical hue: “We were not boys, we were men… artists rather than performers.” Either way, though still together, the idea of the Fab Four was no more.
Guaranteed to raise a smile
Disillusioned with and yet unencumbered by their own brand, sonically grown-up, and tuned into a different zeitgeist to their fans, the stage was set for the Beatles to give their command performance, 40 minutes of the “world’s biggest rock band at the very height of its influence and ambition.”
Do you have a favourite track from the album? Let me know what it is in the comments.